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Streaking Blue Crew to battle Piazza's Padres

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The National League West has turned into the most competitive division in Baseball. Every team in the West still has a shot at a playoff berth. They were not supposed to be this good. They were not supposed to be competitive.

At the start of the season the division was the laughing stock of Major League Baseball, with many pundits expressing that they would not be surprised if every NL West team finished below .500. Of course, that could still happen, but I think it would be a mistake to believe it’s because of poor play. This division is where it is today because it is balanced. Every team has its share of veteran help from hitting, defense and pitching. Furthermore, every team has their share of rookies destined for stardom.

Tonight we follow the Dodgers as they head to San Diego to face our southern rivals for a 3-game set. The Padres are only 4 games back and could suddenly find themselves only one game back if they sweep the Blue Crew at PETCO Park. As you may already know, the Dodgers are in the middle of a crucial roadtrip, where they faced the Giants this past weekend, the Padres now and Arizona next weekend. It will be like this for the rest of the year. The Dodgers fortune will depend on how we fare against those teams.

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The Padres have been slumping. They are 7-12 during the month of August. They've lost Ryan Klesko and Khalil Greene to the DL. Both could possibly be healthy enough for the year-end roster expansion call-ups. Nevertheless, do not mistake these recent losses for a wounded animal. The Padres still have the ability to strike back and reverse the momentum towards their favor. They are like a lizard slowed by the morning dew, but are ready to strike when the situation suits them.

The key to this series will be to continue our strong play. Billingsley, who will pitch tonight, needs to build on his masterful performance against the Marlins. The bullpen needs to keep their head down and continue to provide the consistency we did not have at the beginning of the year. Our offense, which has been one of the most potent in baseball, just needs to keep hacking away. Forget the long ball -- I'm happy to see us just get hit after hit after hit. If the Dodgers can maintain the momentum created since the trading deadline, then we can stretch our current lead of 4 games to the playoffs and beyond.

amazing photo of Petco Park by Tostie14 via flickr